I Talk Like a River
I Talk Like a River

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Annotation: What if words got stuck in the back of your mouth whenever you tried to speak? What if they never came out the way you w... more
Catalog Number: #254004
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright Date: 2020
Edition Date: 2020
Illustrator: Smith, Sydney,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 0-8234-4559-3 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-8803-2
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-8234-4559-2 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-8803-8
Dewey: E
LCCN: 2019022745
Dimensions: 26 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews
A young boy describes how it feels to stutter and how his father’s words see him through “bad speech day[s].”Lyrical, painfully acute language and absorbing, atmospheric illustrations capture, with startling clarity, this school-age child’s daily struggle with speech. Free verse emulates the pauses of interrupted speech while slowing down the reading, allowing the words to settle. When coupled with powerful metaphors, the effect is gut-wrenching: “The P / in pine tree / grows roots / inside my mouth / and tangles / my tongue.” Dappled paintings inspire empathy as well, with amorphous scenes infused with the uncertainty that defines both the boy’s unpredictable speech and his melancholy. Specificity arrives in the artwork solely at the river, where boy and father go after a particularly bad morning. Scenery comes into focus, and readers feel the boy’s relief in this refuge where he can breathe deeply, be quiet, and think clearly. At this extraordinary book’s center, a double gatefold shows the child wading in shimmering waters, his back to readers, his face toward sunlight. His father pulls his son close and muses that the boy “talk[s] like a river,” choppy in places, churning in others, and smooth beyond.  (Father and son both appear White.) Young readers will turn this complex idea over in their minds again and again. The author includes a moving autobiographical essay prompting readers to think even further about speech, sounds, communication, self-esteem, and sympathy.An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it. (Picture book. 4-8)
Publishers Weekly
Sometimes a few words can transform a child-s life. In this autobiographical story by Canadian poet Scott (Night & Ox, for adults), a boy who stutters is given a new way to think about his speech. He describes words in his mouth and the anguish of his classroom: -All those eyes watching/ my lips/ twist and twirl,/ all those mouths/ giggling/ and laughing.- One -bad speech day,- his father picks him up from school and takes him to the quiet river, where they look for rocks and sit on the bank. -See how that water moves? That-s how you speak,- his father says. Following frustration-tinged spreads, Smith (Small in the City) zooms in on the boy-s face as he watches the river -bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing.- He closes his eyes, taking in the words- meaning, then ventures into the water, shown in a shimmering double gatefold. -This is what I like to remember,/ to help stop myself from crying/ I talk like a river.- Artwork makes the internal change a light-filled experience, an account of the moment in which the child experiences himself and his individual way of speaking as part of the great forces of the natural world. Ages 4-8. Author-s agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. Illustrator-s agent: Emily Van Beek, Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management. (Sept.)
School Library Journal Starred Review
Gr 14 In first-person narration about the author as a boy, this debut brings readers into the world of dysfluency, that is, stuttering. The narrator, a white boy, sits alone at the kitchen table before school, imagining how badly his day will go, and it's even worse. The letters M , P , and C bring special terrors for the garbled sounds they demand of him in a school day, when the teacher asks students to describe a favorite place. His solitude is, for readers, almost unbearable until he returns to his understanding father. He knows about a "bad speech day," and takes his son to the river. There, without many words, he explains how his son talks like the river, with ebbs and flows, a rush of sounds, emotion, and meaning streaming. The boy's dawning realization brings the story to a resonant pause, in a foldout that opens to a vast four-page spread of the sparkling waters that surround him. And then the remembrance resumes, for when he returns to school, he talks about his special place in his own manner, his dysfluency making him and his telling unique. Smith's lyrical, color-saturated paintings capture mighty nature as well as the blurred, staring faces of schoolmates, who mock and laugh but mostly do not understand the main character's inner world. An author's note, in tiny type but very personal and expressive, outlines the journey Scott has taken to make peace with himself. VERDICT By turns heartbreaking and illuminating, this picture book brings one more outsider into the fold through economy of language and an abundance of love. Kimberly Olson Fakih, School Library Journal
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
A young boy describes how it feels to stutter and how his father’s words see him through “bad speech day[s].”Lyrical, painfully acute language and absorbing, atmospheric illustrations capture, with startling clarity, this school-age child’s daily struggle with speech. Free verse emulates the pauses of interrupted speech while slowing down the reading, allowing the words to settle. When coupled with powerful metaphors, the effect is gut-wrenching: “The P / in pine tree / grows roots / inside my mouth / and tangles / my tongue.” Dappled paintings inspire empathy as well, with amorphous scenes infused with the uncertainty that defines both the boy’s unpredictable speech and his melancholy. Specificity arrives in the artwork solely at the river, where boy and father go after a particularly bad morning. Scenery comes into focus, and readers feel the boy’s relief in this refuge where he can breathe deeply, be quiet, and think clearly. At this extraordinary book’s center, a double gatefold shows the child wading in shimmering waters, his back to readers, his face toward sunlight. His father pulls his son close and muses that the boy “talk[s] like a river,” choppy in places, churning in others, and smooth beyond.  (Father and son both appear White.) Young readers will turn this complex idea over in their minds again and again. The author includes a moving autobiographical essay prompting readers to think even further about speech, sounds, communication, self-esteem, and sympathy.An astounding articulation of both what it feels like to be different and how to make peace with it. (Picture book. 4-8)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* A young boy awakens filled with words that make him stutter. P sounds tangle his tongue, like pine tree roots; C sticks in the back of his throat like a crow's caw; and M makes him mumble. He compensates by remaining silent, which evokes laughter in his classmates. Only Dad knows what to do. The two go to the river where Dad explains that the water moves the way the boy speaks: bubbling, churning, whirling, and crashing. Calmed, the boy is able to return to class and speak of his favorite place, the river. Scott's lyrical text speaks movingly of "bad speech days" and the personal trauma that results from this disability. Smith's watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations echo the story's contemplative mood. Much of the art has a slightly gauzy, out-of-focus feel, appropriate to the quiet tone of this narrative. Blues and greens predominate (especially in the river scenes), with pink used as an accent. Those looking for a dramatic improvement in this child's disfluency may be disappointed; in real life, stuttering can persist into adulthood. Instead Scott demonstrates how a caring adult can help to diffuse anxiety, enabling a stutterer to speak in spite of disfluency. Full of reassurance and understanding, this is a much-needed look at a common language problem.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (9/1/20)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews (9/1/20)
Starred Review for Publishers Weekly (9/1/20)
School Library Journal Starred Review (9/1/20)
Reading Level: 2.0
Interest Level: K-3

What if words got stuck in the back of your mouth whenever you tried to speak? What if they never came out the way you wanted them to? Sometimes it takes a change of perspective to get the words flowing.

I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.

And I can't say them all . . .

When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he'd like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father's ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.

Poet Jordan Scott writes movingly in this powerful and ultimately uplifting book, based on his own experience, and masterfully illustrated by Greenaway Medalist Sydney Smith. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
A Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year
A Bookpage Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection


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